True confession: I am not a natural Southern cook, though technically, I live in the South now and I can cook. Arkansas was the ninth state to secede from the Union, so it ranks right up there as a Southern state. But, I am not from Arkansas. I am from Oklahoma. Oklahoma did not exist as a state during the Civil War, so I am not a true Southerner. Oklahoma is Red People’s land. The U.S. government “gave” it to the Native Americans long after the Civil War. Despite the family lore, I have learned I am not a Native American either according to my genealogical DNA.
I learned to cook while living in Oklahoma, but the state is probably No Man’s land when it comes to culinary feats. Yes, I know the many tribes who inhabit the state (however involuntarily at first) have their own unique fare, but I didn’t master any tribal cooking. The closest I have come was eating the Indian Fry Bread at Mayfest. I never prepared it myself. One simply must be able to fry food to qualify as a Southern cook or apparently also as a Native American cook.
Truer confession: I have never fried anything. The ability to batter and fry food of any sort (think fish, pickles, Snickers) is a staple of Southern femininity. The one time I tried to fry chicken was a miserable, inedible failure. The defeat was overwhelming and so was the clean up. The stovetop was never the same, nor was my ego. I never attempted to fry anything again.
I should be able to fry chicken, potatoes, whatever. I had good role models. My mom made great pan-fried chicken. My aunt made delicious fried catfish. My grandmother in Dallas made great food period. Fried, baked, boiled, whatever. Genetics apparently does not influence cooking. I can cook. I can make a mean pecan pie. I just can’t fry.
Truest confession: I can only make half a pecan pie. My pie filling is beyond compare….not too sweet, not too gooey, and not too nutty. However, not only can I not fry, I cannot make pie crust — that other culinary staple of Southern womanhood. Southern cooking is apparently beyond my ken. Fiddle de dee.
I tried making pie crust several times. I even got a sure-fire recipe from a college professor. She has a PhD, so she should know what she’s talking about, right? She told me not to use water in my pie crust, but rather chilled vodka. She said something about the alcohol evaporating during cooking produced flakiness? The pie crust was so-so. The martinis were nice. I was a bit flaky before the pies were done.
Last confession: When I retired, my goal was to learn to make pie crust. That was some years ago and my failure to make an edible crust has reaffirmed I am not the goal-setting type. Once a year, usually in January, every newspaper and woman’s magazine has an article on setting goals. I don’t read those articles. I still recall those team-building exercises at work where you wrote down your goals and gave them to someone else so that person could help you meet them. I lied; I did not write down my real goals. Written goals can be used against you.
Yes, I have written these confessions about frying, pie crust, and goal-setting. They have no power to be used against me because I have long since admitted to these particular failures. But, you could pull out my fire-engine-red painted toenails and I will confess to nothing else.